Friday, November 29, 2013

Improving the well being of the majority: Nicaragua and ALBA

An interview, by Liz Light the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign, representative in Nicaragua, with Carlos Fonseca, FSLN international department, in advance of his UK visit 3-13 December.

Issues canvassed: Councils for Citizens Power, ALBA, gender equality, International solidarity.

What are the key messages that you want to get across during your visit to UK? In the first instance to explain the direction the FSLN has defined for the revolutionary transformation of Nicaraguan society, how this manifests itself in economic and social policies and programmes and the political model that we are promoting. Fundamental is the achievement of improvements in the living conditions for the majority of the population. Politically speaking it is incredibly important that the international community and progressive forces in the world know what we are doing, since there are detractors who attack the FSLN and seek to disparage our credibility.

Read the rest

Also see

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

El Salvador: Embedding Neoliberal Policy

US & Allies Promote 30-Year Neoliberal Policy Pledge for Salvadoran Presidential Candidates

On Friday, November 1, all presidential tickets save the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) candidates publicly signed onto an elaborate  “Nation’s Agreement” policy document that would guide El Salvador’s economic and social policies for the next 30 years, regardless of the party in power. The signing ceremony was attended by US, Mexico, Chile and Peru’s ambassadors—all right-wing nations and, notably, parties to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement that would swallow 12 coastal nations along the Pacific Ocean; the TPP threatens to super-size the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) model that has devastated local agriculture, labor standards and environmental protections across the region.

Right-wing presidential candidates joined to sign the pledge
FMLN spokesman Roberto Lorenzana explained the FMLN’s refusal to sign the Nation’s Agreement, saying that it “contains an implicit reduction in social spending…we could never sign anything that commits to eliminating or reducing social programs.” Lorenzana revealed that the proposal includes measures like increasing the sales tax and raising taxes on small businesses, policies that FMLN candidate and current Vice President Salvador Sánchez Cerén opposes. In fact, on Wednesday, October 30, President Funes presented a bill to the Legislative Assembly that would ensure the continuity of many of the groundbreaking social programs pioneered under the first FMLN government regardless of the outcome of the 2014 presidential elections, including the Women’s City service centers, free school supplies, uniforms and milk for students, pensions for the elderly in impoverished municipalities, and more.

The legal nature of the Nation’s Agreement is unclear, but the right-wing parties’ commitment to a common policy document further evidences the fact that, despite the fierce campaign discourse, little differentiates the FMLN’s electoral opposition from one another and from the failed neoliberal policies of the past. While El Salvador is not among the nations poised to enter the TPP, this agreement seeks to ensure that the ideologies that drive the TPP are cemented into Salvadoran policy for the foreseeable future. This effort stands in stark contrast to the FMLN’s platform, which embraces alternative development models championed by South American nations like Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Philippines Typhoon: Urgent Appeal for Funds

A Message from the Philippines Solidarity Network

You don’t need me to tell you about the utter catastrophe that has just devastated the central Philippines. It is receiving unprecedented saturation coverage in the NZ media (which shows just how bad it is, because the NZ media usually ignore the Philippines).

This was a storm like no other, with wind speeds higher than ever before recorded and a storm surge that was basically a tsunami.

The Filipino people continue to pay the ultimate price for global climate change. And the situation is made much worse by the unjust structure of Philippine society. In recent days media reports have described it as “an impoverished country”. On the contrary, it is a very rich country, with a huge number of very poor people.

The Philippines suffers from criminal, wilful negligence by local and central government – they do not build or maintain infrastructure to control floods and provide protection from storms, so this catastrophe has caused massive loss of life and damage, impacting most on the poor. A lack of care by the ruling class rich for the vast majority who are the poor; institutionalised corruption; and skewed priorities, whereby the military gets the lion’s share of the national budget, mean that millions of Filipinos are left exposed and in harm’s way.

PSNA is not a relief agency or a development agency but we can’t stand idly by while poor Filipinos suffer in huge numbers.

If you wish to donate, do so via PSNA and our good friends at Christian World Service will transmit the money to the National Council of Churches of the Philippines for us, in one lump sum (doing it that way means that none of the money raised has to be spent on the extortionate international money transfer fees charged by banks).

You can send your donation by cheque to:

Box 2450, 
Christchurch 8140 

Accompany it with a note saying “disaster appeal”, and include your e-mail address, so that we can acknowledge it.

Or you can deposit your donation directly into PSNA’s bank account:

Philippines Solidarity Network
Kiwibank, 155 The Terrace, Wellington
389000 0792619 00

Include your name and “disaster donation”.

And please e-mail us, to tell us that you’ve made the deposit, so that we can look out for it online.

Murray Horton

Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Take Action to Support the Five

Please add your support to a major new online campaign for the Cuban Five

Voices for the Five is a major new campaigning website bringing together international personalities and campaigners from all corners of the world to call for freedom for the Miami Five. René González, other family members and international personalities including actress Emma Thomspon, former archbishop of Canterbury Lord Rowan Williams, and author John Le Carré have already signed up to this online call for justice for the Five. You can add your name alongside them today here.

It takes less than 10 seconds to add your name, and in just a few seconds more you can leave a personal message and picture, or video message too.

Visit today to see the full list of endorsers and messages from international supporters, to add your own name, and to find out how you can also attend and support the International Commission of Inquiry in to the Case of the Miami Five  at the Law Society in London on 7-8 March 2014.
“In the court we know we will never find justice. This is a political case. But we trust in the power of solidarity. Only a jury of one million people, people like you, can bring justice to these men.”
Elizabeth Palmiero, wife of Ramon Labaniño

The remaining four prisoners have been in US prisons for more than fifteen years. International campaigners need to join together today so that our voices are heard in the White House and the men are reunited with their families in Cuba.

Please add your name today and support the International Commission of Inquiry in March 2014. Here 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Stopping the Tortures

From November 22-24, 2013, SOA Watch will carry their protest to the place where the killers are still being trained: the School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), a U.S. military training school for Latin American soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia. Join social movement activists from Chile, Guatemala,Mexico, El Salvador, Colombia and from across the Americas and take a stand against the SOA/WHINSEC,U.S. militarization, and oppressive U.S. foreign policy.

The November Vigil has grown from a handful of people into one of the largest and most dynamic multi-generational annual gatherings against militarization. Thousands have been educated and mobilized to take a stand against Pentagon-driven U.S. foreign policy and to engage in nonviolent direct action. 

New layers of activists are joining the movement, including numerous youth and students from multinational, working-class communities. Thousands will converge at the gates of the SOA, where we continue to reaffirm life and our creativity in the face of Empire. We will come together as a community to mourn, resist, learn, heal, and celebrate. We need everyone’s energy and creativity. 

The ongoing repression in Honduras following the SOA graduate-led military coup, the expansion of U.S. military bases in Colombia and Panama, and the militarization of the U.S./Mexico border are grim examples of what we are up against. We must come together to reaffirm our commitment to ending militarization and injustice. We see hope as movements throughout the hemisphere are standing up for dignity and self-determination. The Syria crisis showed that the American people are decisively rejecting the “military solutions” approach of the Pentagon- driven U.S. foreign policy.

Checkout the Flyer 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Latin American Countries Put Up Front Against Corporate Lawsuits

Latin American countries are challenging rules on how to arbitrate disputes over trade agreements.
Bolivian President Evo Morales pictured with Cuba’s Raul Castro for the inauguration of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April  2013. Boliva, Cuba and Venezuela are among 12 Latin American countries to push for new rules for resolving trade agreement disputes with multinational corporations. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
A bloc of a dozen Latin American countries have agreed to take collective action to oppose a spate of crippling lawsuits increasingly brought by multinational corporations against the governments of developing countries for alleged violations of trade agreements.

Advocates of fair trade and stricter corporate accountability say the decision, taken last week at a ministerial summit in Ecuador, offers a significant precedent for a nascent movement by developing countries increasingly pushing back against what they view as unfair trade terms in investment treaties.

“It’s incredibly exciting that 12 countries have pulled together to look at what has become a very serious issue,” Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA, a network of anti-poverty and anti-debt groups and a counterpart to one of the organizations that negotiated the new agreement, told Mint Press News.

“It’s not rocket science – this is about multinational corporations being able to hold countries hostage through continuous litigation, to litigate them into submission. Now, however, the space that’s being created offers ways to start to establish laws to limit this type of litigation and move to resolution.”

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Venezuela has strong words for US at UN General Assembly

Foreign Minister Elias Jaua has slammed the United States at the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), labeling Washington and its allies as “hawks of war”.

“We are here to report a kidnapping”, Jaua stated during his address to the UNGA last Friday.

“The kidnapper has many faces...but are still the same: imperialism”, he said.

Accusing Washington of violating the UN charter, Jaua called on UN member states to stand up against “leaders of the United States and those that follow blindly behind them”. Much of the minister’s speech focused on allegations of US aggression, including against Syria.

“Mr. President, Article 2, paragraph 4, of the Charter of the United Nations, exhaustive- ly expressed that members of this organization ‘shall refrain

Accusing Washington of violating the UN charter, Jaua called on UN member states to stand up against “leaders of the United States and those that follow blindly behind them”. Much of the minister’s speech focused on allegations of US aggression, including against Syria. “The Charter of the United Nations exhaustively expresses that members of this organization ‘shall refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or independence of any state’” from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or independence of any state’”, Jaua stated.

“However, the US President...threatens to bomb a particular country, if they don’t fulfill their unilateral demands”, he said.

Jaua further took a swipe at US support for Syria’s armed opposition movement amid international calls for peace in the civil war stricken country.

“How do some members of the Security Council of the UN think we can achieve this purpose [peace], by arming and protecting terrorist groups such as the Al-Nusra Front and Al Qaeda?”, he asked the assembly.

“Many of these groups, linked to such heinous acts as the destruction of the Twin Towers  in  this  city,  deny the existence of anyone who thinks differently to them- be they Christians, Muslims or Jews and express a particular hatred...of women”, he said.

Responding to Obama
Jaua also responded to US President Barack Obama’s ad- dress to the UNGA last week. During his speech, Obama de- fended US exceptionalism while justifying his administration’s previous calls for international military strikes on Syria.

“Some may disagree, but I believe [the United States of ] America is exceptional, in part because we have shown a willingness, to the sacrifice of blood and treasure to stand up, not only for our own interests, but for the interests of all”, Obama stated.

“Our charter of the United Nations, speaks of “equality of nations large and small”, [but] the US president said, just two days ago, that they are ‘exceptional’, that they are not the same as the other 192 countries that are represented here”, Jaua responded.

The minister described this “inconsistency” as “alarming”. “Why not consider the use of drones...which have caused [the deaths of] tens of thousands of innocent victims, including children and elderly in northern Africa, the Middle East or in regions of Asia as crimes against humanity?” he asked. “Why not apply sanctions to a government that has for 50 years held an illegal economic blockade against the Cuban people?” Jaua said.

He further criticized UN failure to establish an “independent Palestinian state”, and British  refusal  to  negotiate with Argentina over the Malvinas/Falkland Islands. “Is it because the elite United States and some of its allies are exceptional?” Jaua asked.

“Seven years ago our Comandante Hugo Chavez said that it “smells of sulfur here”, and today, unfortunately, we must say that even those considered “exceptional” are smelling of sulfur”, he said.

Maduro  Absent Due To “Security Concerns”
President Nicolas Maduro was originally slated to speak at the UNGA, but at the last minute he canceled his planned trip to New York, stating his life may have been in danger.

“There were two serious provocations, one more serious than the other, how I understand it”, Maduro stated at the time.

“As you know, President Maduro is not present in the General Assembly, due to a combination of delays, obstacles, constraints and lack of guarantees for himself and members of his delegation by the government of the United States, in flagrant violation of its obligations under the Head- quarters Agreement of this organization”, Jaua said.

According to the foreign minister, the alleged threat to Maduro was part of a long- running US campaign against Venezuela.

“Countries such as Venezuela, who have chosen the path of deepening democracy with the socialist model of organization and popular inclusion, which enables us to meet the Millennium development goals established by this organization, are constantly harassed, demonized and disrupted in our political and social stability”, he said.

Jaua wasn’t alone in his condemnation of US.

Earlier in the week, Latin American leaders from Bolivia, Brazil and Uruguay and Argentina all delivered speeches condemning international aggression.

“Those who decide wars are large arms industries, the financial system and the oil companies. Plutocracy has replaced democracy”, Bolivian President Evo Morales stated during his address to the UNGA.

Washington copped further criticism from its southern neighbors the day before Jaua’s speech.

On Thursday, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA) issued a formal complaint to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, alleging that Washington imposed undue conditions on international delegations heading to New York.

The complaint  describes US treatment of some delegations as “inimical and irresponsible”.

On the same day, Jaua stated that Venezuelan diplomats had been subject to extended questioning by US authorities.

In a press release, ALBA stated there is an “obvious need to discuss the possibility of changing [the location of ] the United Nations head- quarters”.

The statement also calls for “solidarity” with Syria, and condemns alleged US international spying.

Yesterday, ALBA met again, this time in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

On Monday, Maduro stated that at the meeting representatives would discuss “AL- BA’s consolidation strategy in South America and the Caribbean”.

“We need to meet to discuss economic policies, production policies, the integration of South America, how to speed up the work of the various councils in South America [and] how to expand the market for our products”, Morales said.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Workers Set Factories Ablaze in Call for Decent Wage for Producing Globe's 'Cheap' Clothing

Bangladesh swept by a third day of protests that leaves nearly 150 injured 

Garment workers shout as they call other workers to join them, in front of Brothers Fashion Limited, during a protest in Dhaka September 23, 2013. (Photo: Reuters/Andrew Biraj)
Up to 200,000 garment factory workers sustained a third day of protests in Bangladesh on Monday, forcing hundreds of factories to close as the workers' call for a better minimum wage was met with teargas and rubber bullets from police.

Protests were held in the capital of Dhaka and surrounding areas, home to hundreds of factories that produce clothing that ends up stores like Walmart and H&M.

At least two factories were set ablaze by protesters, Reaz-Bin-Mahmood, vice-president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, told Agence France-Presse. The protesting workers also blocked roads and confiscated and destroyed rifles from security officials.

Resulting clashes with police left nearly 150 injured.

The workers, 80% of whom are women, have demanded a $100 monthly wage for their contributions to the $20-billion industry, and called the factory owners' offer of just a 20% raise "inhuman and humiliating." Their current monthly wage is $38, prompting one protester to say, "We work to survive but we can't even cover our basic needs."

When the protests began this weekend, Nazma Akter, president of the United Garments Workers' Federation, told the crowd, "Our backs are against the wall, so we don't have any alternative unless we raise our voice strongly," and added that "the economy moves with our toil."

Abdus Salam Murshedy, president of the Exporters Association of Bangladesh, lamented that “A one-day closure means a huge loss for owners.”

Agence France-Presse reports that
Bangladeshi textile workers are among the worst paid in the sector worldwide, and often toil for 80 hours a week in factories which are vulnerable to fires and other accidents.
Protests over poor wages, benefits and working conditions are frequent but have gained in intensity since April when a factory complex collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people in one of the world's worst industrial disasters.

Despite the massive death toll from the Rana factory fire in April as well as countless, day to day, potentially lethal incidents at garment factories in the country, little seems to have changed in the working conditions at many factories.

A BBC investigation unveiled a factory where workers are still working 19-hour shifts and are locked in, and deceptive books "hide the truth about working hours from Western retailers."

Monday, September 23, 2013

US Needs to Take the Hint from Dilma Rousseff's Snub

The Brazilian president's cancelled visit, over NSA spying, ought to jolt the US out of its arrogant disrespect for Latin America

Tuesday's cancellation of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's state visit to the White House, scheduled for next month, came as little surprise. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden, and reported by Glenn Greenwald and TV Globo, had caused an uproar in Brazil. According to the documents and reports, the US government had spied on Dilma's personal communications, and had targeted the computer systems of Brazil's Petrobras, the big oil company that is majority-owned by the state.

TV Globo's report indicated that there was information in the targeted Petrobas computer network that could be very valuable to foreign oil companies. Former President Lula da Silva said that Obama should "personally apologize to the world"; and Dilma also demanded a full public apology – which was not forthcoming.

The rift with Brazil comes at a time of worsening US relations with Latin America, and especially South America. It is indicative of a much deeper problem.

The Obama administration's refusal to recognize the results of the Venezuelan elections in April of this year, despite the lack of doubt about the results and in stark opposition to the rest of the region, displayed an aggressiveness that Washington hadn't shown since it aided the 2002 coup. It brought a sharp rebuke from South America, including Lula and Dilma.

Less than two months later, US Secretary of State John Kerry launched a new "detente", meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart Elías Jaua in the first such high-level meeting in memory, and implicitly recognizing the election results. But new hopes were quickly dashed when several European governments, clearly acting on behalf of the United States, forced down President Evo Morales' plane in July.

"They've definitely gone crazy," President Cristina Kirchner tweeted, and UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations) issued a strong denunciation. The gross violation of international law and diplomatic norms was another flamboyant display of Washington's lack of respect for the region.

Read the Rest 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Debt, austerity, devastation: it’s Europe’s turn

"Like plague in the 14th century, the scourge of debt has gradually migrated from South to North. Our 21st-century Yersinia pestis isn’t spread by flea-infested rats but by deadly, ideology-infested neoliberal fundamentalists. Once they had names like Thatcher or Reagan; now they sound more like Merkel or Barroso; but the message, the mentality and the medicine are basically the same. The devastation caused by the two plagues is also similar – no doubt fewer debt-related deaths in Europe today than in Africa three decades ago, but probably more permanent harm done to once-thriving European economies."

As the creditors get fatter, the innocent are punished. Susan George laments a leadership subservient to big business.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Oslo Illusion

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Israeli government. Officially known as the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, the Oslo Accords were firmly ensconced in the framework of the two-state solution, heralding “an end to decades of confrontation and conflict,” the recognition of “mutual legitimate and political rights,” and the aim of achieving “peaceful coexistence and mutual dignity and security and … a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement.”

Its supporters claimed that under Oslo, Israel would gradually relinquish control over territory in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with the newly established Palestinian Authority (PA) eventually forming an independent state there. The negotiations process, and subsequent agreements between the PLO and Israel, instead paved the way for the current situation in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian Authority, which now rules over an estimated 2.6 million Palestinians in the West Bank, has become the key architect of Palestinian political strategy. Its institutions draw international legitimacy from Oslo, and its avowed goal of “building an independent Palestinian state” remains grounded in the same framework. The incessant calls for a return to negotiations – made by U.S. and European leaders on an almost daily basis – harken back to the principles laid down in September 1993.

Read the rest

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

CIA’s role in Iranian coup confirmed

On August 19, 1953 Iranian history took a critical turn when a U.S. and British-backed coup overthrew the country's prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh. To mark the sixtieth anniversary the National Security Archive released the recently declassified CIA documents on the United States' role in the controversial operation.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

After Neo liberalism:

The Kilburn Manifesto

 a manifesto to challenge neo liberalism?

"Although the neoliberal economic settlement is unravelling, its  political underpinning remains largely unchallenged. Our manifesto calls into  question the neoliberal order itself, and argues that we need radical alternatives to its foundational assumptions."

The manifesto will be published in online installments over the next 12 months. 

Some Background

A footnote to the chapter 1 suggests, this project develops arguments explored in The Neoliberal Crisis, a free e-book.

All these downloads are free

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Trying to destroy the Danger of a Good Example

The Unrelenting Economic War on Cuba

It is impossible to fully understand Cuba today without also understanding the economic sanctions levied against it by the United States. For over fifty years, these sanctions have been upheld by every presidential administration, and at times intensified by individual presidents and acts of Congress. They are a key part of the U.S. government’s ongoing campaign to undermine the Cuban Revolution, and stand in egregious violation of international law. Most importantly, the sanctions are cruelly designed for their harmful impact on the Cuban people.

Here’s a laundry list of examples in which Cubans have been deprived critical medical aid due to the blockade:
  • Cuban children suffering from cancer of the retina cannot receive effective treatment because the surgical microscopes and other equipment needed for this treatment are sold exclusively by the U.S. company, Iris Medical Instruments.
  • The National Institute of Oncology and Radiobiology in Havana cannot use radioactive isotope plaques for the treatment of retinal cancer as they are sold exclusively by U.S. companies, thereby requiring doctors to remove the affected eyes of children altogether rather than treat and preserve them.
  • Nearly 1600 Cubans a year are denied effective diagnosis of cancerous tumors because Cuba cannot obtain the necessary German-made optical coherence tomography – an item prohibited by the embargo because it contains some American-made components.
  • Cubans are denied the drug temozolomide (Temodar) necessary for the effective treatment of tumors of the central nervous system.
  • Cuban children are denied the benefit of the U.S.-made Amplatzer device which could help them to avoid open heart surgery.
  • Cubans were denied $4.1 million for treating AIDS, Tuberulosis and Malaria when these monies were seized by the U.S. from an NGO which had earmarked those monies for Cuba.
  • Cubans were denied the funds designated by the United Nations Program for Development for Cuba’s health care system when those monies were seized by the U.S.
  • Cubans are denied critical drugs for treating bone cancer and HIV AIDS.
Salim Lamrani’s new book The Economic War Against Cuba provides a clear concise and accessible account U.S. economic blockade against Cuba: their origins, their provisions, how they contravene international law, and how they affect the lives of Cubans. 

The lengths some will go to, to destroy the danger of a good example.

Well worth reading. 

Read the Counterpunch review 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Venezuelan at the cutting edge

The Communal State:

Communal Councils, Communes, and Workplace Democracy

The particular character of what Hugo Chávez called the Bolivarian process lies in the understanding that social transformation can be constructed from two directions, “from above” and “from below.” Bolivarianism—or Chavismo—includes among its participants both traditional organizations and new autonomous groups; it encompasses both state-centric and anti-systemic currents. The process thus differs from traditional Leninist or social democratic approaches, both of which see the state as the central agent of change; it differs as well from movement-based approaches that conceive of no role whatsoever for the state in a process of revolutionary change.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

After PRISM: on Power, Trust and Accountability

Multinational corporations who dominate large parts of the internet have provided USA’s National Security Agency with massive amounts of their users’ intimately personal data. This is simply unacceptable in any democracy worthy of the name. From TI

Also see America's Surveillance Net from the Nation and keep an eye on the Anti-Bases Campaign media page for coverage of the local situation. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The origins of the Spanish Civil War

In July 1936 a military rising was launched in Spain by a group of military generals aiming to overthrow the Republican government, elected only five months previously. Though initially successful in many parts of Spain, opponents of the rising- working people, trade-unionists, members of political organisations from the centre to the left and, in some cases, members of the Civil Guard and the new Republican police force, the Assault Guard- took to the streets, erected barricades, and confronted the insurgents.

Visit the International Brigade Memorial Trust 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Resist and transform: the struggle for water in Greece

A combination of opposing privatisation and putting forward practical alternatives is helping water campaigners mount an effective challenge to austerity in Greece. Hilary Wainwright reports

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ríos Montt Convicted of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity

Retired General José Efraín Ríos Montt, the U.S. backed dictator who governed Guatemala from March 1982 to August 1983, was sentenced by Judge Yasmín Barrios to 80 years in prison yesterday, 50 years for genocide, and 30 years for crimes against humanity. The focus of the trial was on the murder of 1,771 Ixil Mayas. Rodriguez Sánchez, a former intelligence director, was acquitted of all charges.

During the civil war in Guatemala (1960 – 1996), more than 200,000 Guatemalans were massacred, in the large majority of cases by the Guatemalan army, civil patrols, and other state agents. Most of these atrocities were committed between 1978 and 1984. For most of this period Guatemala was among the worst human rights offenders in the hemisphere.

This trial marks the first time someone with command authority over the perpetrators of forced disappearances, torture, rape, and the mass murder of Guatemalan citizens has been tried and convicted for genocide and crimes against humanity in Guatemala.

When will the trainers and funders of murderers be bought to account? 
Montt with supporter in chief, US President, Ronald Reagan.
This conviction raises important questions about the accountability of those involved in supporting the Guatemalan security forces directly involved in these crimes. Grahame Russell of Rights Action (, who has reported extensively on the genocide trial in Guatemala, said: “The trial and guilty verdict are an extraordinary achievement in light of the continuing repression and injustice in Guatemala today. It is also a sad moment if one considers that it took 31 years to bring Ríos Montt to justice, and he is only one of the intellectual authors of the genocide. President Otto Pérez Molina himself was a high-ranking officer at the time Ríos Montt held office. Also, while we are praising the courage of the witnesses and all of those who took on this case, perhaps we can also muster the fortitude to hold those U.S. officials who are co-responsible for the genocide accountable.”

International human rights organizations played an important role in supporting and disseminating information about the trial. It is impossible to exaggerate the courage of the non-governmental human rights organizations in Guatemala, the witnesses who testified at the trial, and the actors in the criminal justice system of Guatemala who have risked their lives in seeing this prosecution through to the end. Today humanists throughout the world join the Ixil people and other survivors of the genocide in celebration and anticipate that this conviction will accelerate the trend towards justice and accountability throughout the hemisphere.

Also see

Monday, April 22, 2013

Genocide Trial of Former Dictator Ríos Montt Suspended After Intervention by Guatemalan President

A historic trial against former U.S.-backed Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity came to an abrupt end Thursday when an appeals court suspended the trial before a criminal court was scheduled to reach a verdict. Ríos Montt on was charged in connection with the slaughter of more than 1,700 people in Guatemala’s Ixil region after he seized power in 1982. 

His 17-month rule is seen as one of the bloodiest chapters in Guatemala’s decades-long campaign against Maya indigenous people, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. Thursday’s decision is seen as a major blow to indigenous victims. 

Investigative journalist Allan Nairn reported last night Guatemalan army associates had threatened the lives of case judges and prosecutors and that the case had been annulled after intervention by Guatemala’s president, General Otto Pérez Molina. Ríos Montt was the first head of state in the Americas to stand trial for genocide. 

Nairn flew to Guatemala last week after he was called to testify in Ríos Montt’s trial. He was listed by the court as a "qualified witness" and was tentatively scheduled to testify on Monday. But at the last minute, Nairn was kept off the stand "in order," he was told, "to avoid a confrontation" with the president, General Pérez Molina, and for fear that if he took the stand, military elements might respond with violence. 

In the 1980s, Nairn extensively documented broad army responsibility for the massacres and was prepared to present evidence that personally implicated Pérez Molina, who was field commander during the very Mayan Ixil region massacres for which the ex-dictator, Ríos Montt, had been charged with genocide.

Click to watch video 
Read the full transcript 


Claims of Fraud in Venezuela: The Fake Evidence of Henrique Capriles

Henrique Capriles holds up a vote tally at a press conference last Monday
  (Getty Images)

Immediately after Nicolas Maduro was elected to the presidency of Venezuela last Sunday, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles refused to acknowledge the results of the election, and claimed that the government had committed fraud. In what follows, I will list all of the alleged evidence of fraud cited by Capriles, and explain why every single example is either demonstrably false, or extremely implausible.

Read the full story 
By Chris Carlson -

Also see 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Venezuelan Elections Were Well-Organized, Fair and Transparent

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), a U.S. organization with 120 chapters, sent a delegation to act as international accompaniers during Venezuela’s presidential elections on April 14, and released a press release Wednesday stating that: “[the] process was fair, transparent, participatory, and well-organized.”

The NLG sent five members to polling stations in five different states around Venezuela, joining a larger team of 170 accompaniers from abroad.

According to the press release, “the NLG monitors found a reliable system in which 54% of all votes are randomly audited on Election Day. NLG monitors witnessed one such audit in Caracas in which the paper ballots matched perfectly with the electronic votes.”

The NLG observed the following positive aspects of the system: “advanced voting procedures that prevent fraud through multiple fingerprint and voter ID certifications; accurate and efficient digital and manual vote calculation; active participation by party witnesses and national and international observers.”

NLG attorney Robin Alexander is quoted as saying: “The U.S. would do well to incorporate some of the security checks and practices that are routine in Venezuela to improve both the level of participation and the credibility of our elections. The six polls I visited in the state of Carabobo were calm and well-organized and lines were short.”

Finally, the press release also urges the U.S. government to give Venezuela the same treatment that the country has given to the U.S. by recognizing the election.

The press release reads: “As a U.S. organization, the NLG emphasizes that the margin of victory for Nicolas Maduro, while small, is comparable to close elections in the U.S., such as the margins of victory for John F. Kennedy in 1960 and for George W. Bush in 2004. The NLG calls upon the U.S. to honor the Venezuelan election as the nations of the world honor U.S. elections without question.”

A member of the delegation, Daniel Kovalik, states: “In the end, it is the Venezuelans who must decide their own future and leaders and the U.S., in the interest of democracy, must honor that decision.”

Also see

Land concentration, land grabbing and people’s struggles in Europe

Land grabbing is widely assumed to be happening only in the global South, but an in-depth analysis by a team of researchers shows that land grabbing is also expanding into Europe.

Read Online 
Executive summary
Overview of papers

Download the full report
Land concentration, land grabbing and people’s struggles in Europe (PDF, 2.95MB)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Warming Up the Bronx: Citgo Venezuela Heating & Social Development Program

It was the fall of 2005, and the cold months were beginning to roll in on the South Bronx, New York City's poorest area. The dilapidated streets of the South Bronx, which has a history of being neglected by the city, might be the last place one would expect to receive a visit from a famous world leader.

However this leader was different.

 On September 20th, 2005, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, a champion of the poor and a vocal critic of the United States government, (having called George Bush “the devil”), came to the notorious urban neighborhood. Hosted by Congressman Jose Serrano, Chavez spoke to a round table of community groups at The Point, a community organization that promotes social and environmental justice[i]. On that day the Venezuelan president made a charged promise to the people of the South Bronx.

 Five years later—with the help of a people-friendly oil company, a progressive congressman, the generosity and political acumen of a foreign leader, and local grassroots participation—that promise has turned into a significant heating oil assistance and social-development program for low-income residents of the Bronx.

Read the rest

Monday, March 18, 2013

US newspaper calls for Cuba to be removed from countries supporting terrorism list

The United States should exclude Cuba from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism, according to an editorial in the Los Angeles Times.

"Cuba remains on the list … because it disagrees with the United States’ approach to fighting international terrorism, not because it supports terrorism," it states.

The State Department has confirmed that it has no plans to remove Cuba from the list. But Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who recently led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Havana, "is urging President Obama to consider a range of policy changes toward Cuba, including delisting it, which would not require congressional approval," the newspaper noted.

"Moreover, keeping Cuba on the list undermines Washington's credibility in Latin America," the LA Times comments.

The editorial highlighted Cuba’s condemnation of the September 11 attacks and the fact that the country is currently hosting peace talks between the FARC-EP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-Army of the People) and the government of Juan Manuel Santos.

This list and other like it, through which the U.S. government assumes the illegitimate right to evaluate the conduct of other countries, has political motivations, in that it allows the administration to justify the anti-Cuba blockade policy.

Obama: Lift the Cuban Embargo ~> sign petition here 

Sanctions implemented against a state sponsoring terrorism include a ban on: unlicensed financial transactions; direct U.S. government financial and technical aid; exports of certain merchandise such as heavy industrial products, high tech equipment and dual-use products; munitions transfers; and the denial of temporary visas to nationals from the country concerned, without a special decision from the Secretary of State.

The War On Democracy (John Pilger's documentary)

The rising of Latin America - the genesis of 'The War On Democracy' read here

Also see

Why I'm Confident About Venezuela's Future: Chavez Death Won't Kill Social Transformation read here

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised - Chavez: Inside the Coup

A documentary about the April 2002 Venezuelan coup attempt which briefly deposed Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

A television crew from Ireland's national broadcaster, RTÉ happened to be recording a documentary about Chávez during the events of April 11, 2002. Shifting focus, they followed the events as they occurred. During their filming, the crew recorded images of the events that they say contradict explanations given by Chávez's opposition, the private media, the US State Department, and then White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.

The documentary shows that the coup was the result of a conspiracy between various old guard and anti-Chávez factions within Venezuela and the United States.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Human rights violations by U.S. - backed Honduran special forces unit

Over the past three years, soldiers from Honduras' 15th Battalion, based in the Bajo Aguan region of Honduras, have been directly implicated in a series of human rights violations targeting land rights movements, according to a report released today by the Washington, DC / Toronto based human rights organization Rights Action.

The report documents 34 of those violations which on-the-ground reports link directly to the 15th Battalion.  These violations include extrajudicial executions, force disappearance, torture, excessive use of force, abuse of authority and threats.  There are indications that many other human rights violations have been committed by the soldiers of the 15th Battalion, and have yet to be documented.

The U.S. military has been training soldiers from the 15th Battalion and providing the unit with various forms of material assistance since 2008. "At the same time the 15th Battalion was implicated in kidnappings, killings, threats, torture and abuse of authority, it received assistance and training from the Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH) of the United States Armed Forces," explains the report's author Annie Bird, Co-Director of Rights Action.

The report also provides details regarding 88 killings of campesinos, small farmers, and their supporters, as well as 5 bystanders apparently mistaken for campesinos, which have taken place since January 2010.  Most of the killings appear to be targeted assassinations, suggesting the presence of an active death squad in the region.  Two of these assassinations occurred this past Saturday, February 16, 2013.

On February 16, 2013, land rights activist Santos Jacobo Cartagena was gunned down while waiting for a bus, and Jose Trejo was shot while driving.  Jose Trejo's brother, Antonio Trejo, was a lawyer for the land rights movement who was killed last September, less than three months after winning in courts the return to campesinos of three farms in dispute.  Jose Trejo had been very active in demanding an investigation into the assassination of his brother.

The vast majority of the killings and other violations that have been perpetrated in Bajo Aguán since 2010 have not been investigated, generating a level of impunity that suggests complicity between state and local authorities and those responsible for the killings and other abuses.

Download the full report

Monday, February 18, 2013

Venezuela donates free heating oil to 100,000 needy US households

For the eighth straight year, Venezuela's state oil company is donating free heating oil to hundreds of thousands of needy Americans.

The CITGO-Venezuela Heating Oil Program has helped more than 1.7 million Americans in 25 states and the District of Columbia keep warm since it was launched back in 2005. The program is a partnership between the Venezuelan state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), its subsidiary CITGO and Citizens Energy Corporation, a nonprofit organization founded by former US Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II that provides discounted and free home heating services and supplies to needy households in the United States and abroad. It has been supported from the beginning by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

Read more

Guantánamo Hearings Reveal Chaos at 'Camp Justice'

Questions of censorship and surveillance plague pre-trial courtroom proceedings

Eleven years after the United States' establishment of the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, more detainees have died imprisoned than have been convicted of wrongdoing under the military commission system. The absence of a speedy trial – a basic right denied defendants trapped in indefinite detention, not to mention a discouragement to families of victims seeking closure – is only a fragment of what's flawed about these untested offshore war courts. As another round of pretrial hearings comes to a close in the case against alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and his four codefendants, the government's efforts to avoid accountability on the issue of torture continue to mire proceedings in frustration and legal uncertainty.

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